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Olympics Security: ‘Exploitation Compounded by Bad Management’

July 17, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: And now the blame game in Britain over security, less than two weeks before the start of the Olympics.

The global security giant known as G4S was contracted to do the job. But it’s come under fire for not having hired enough people.

SIMON ISRAEL of Independent Television News has our report from London.

SIMON ISRAEL: No longer a badge of honor, perhaps. According to the Homes Affairs Select Committee today, the G4S logo now signifies unacceptable, amateurish incompetence.

This damning indictment came at the end of a grueling session for the boss of the world’s biggest security firm, who admitted G4S’ reputation was in tatters.

MAN: Mr. Buckles, it’s a humiliating shambles, isn’t it?

NICK BUCKLES, chief executive, G4S: It’s not where we would want to be. That is certain.

MAN: It’s a humiliating shambles for the country, yes or no?

NICK BUCKLES: I cannot disagree with you.

SIMON ISRAEL: The committee picked its way through the anatomy of the Olympic security fiasco, firstly demanding to know when it all started to go wrong. The answer, July 3, exactly two weeks ago.

NICK BUCKLES: We were still confident early on that we were going to produce the numbers. But the more and more we dug into the data, looked at the process, looked at the scheduling, day by day, we started to realize that the pipeline and the people we thought we were going to able to deliver, we couldn’t.

SIMON ISRAEL: It then emerged that the world’s third largest employer had only got the contract as a vanity project to boost its reputation.

KEITH VAZ, Home Affairs Select Committee: Do you regret signing the contract saying you would agree to provide these people, Mr. Buckles?

NICK BUCKLES: Clearly, we regret signing the contract, but now we have got to get on and deliver it.

SIMON ISRAEL: So the questions turn to what exactly could G4S now deliver, having been bailed out by the police and the army. In Coventry, for example, 200 officers are lined up in anticipation G4S won’t provide the necessary personnel.

JAMES CLAPPISON, member of Parliament: Sir, on the basis of what we have seen so far, you would agree it’s still possible that there will be further problems in the future with staff not turning up at hotels or venues as the need arises for them to do so?

NICK BUCKLES: We need to manage that situation very carefully on a day-to-day basis, yes.

MAN: Yes. But that’s not really an answer. You can’t give Mr. Clappison the assurance he seeks.

NICK BUCKLES: I cannot, no.

MAN: You can’t give us that assurance.

JAMES CLAPPISON: You’re contracted to provide 10,400 guards. As we speak here, do you know how many you will actually provide?

NICK BUCKLES: It’s a moving target in terms of what we believe we can do. At the moment, we have got 4,200 people working on the ground. Our expectation is the minimum that we would deliver is 7,000 on the ground.

SIMON ISRAEL: Exploitation compounded by bad management was how another M.P. summed up the performance of G4S. There were examples of lack of contracts, paying back for the costs of training or uniform, and applicants on the phone for hours getting nowhere.

G4S’ profit on the contract, it said, was 10 million pounds. The global company now stands to lose 40 million to 50 million, having agreed to pay for the extra military, police, accommodation, and even bonuses to cover the shortfall. But it was determined, it said, to recover the agreed 57 million pound management fee.

KEITH VAZ: Well, 57 million is your fee, and you still think you ought to claim it?


KEITH VAZ: Even after all that’s happened?

NICK BUCKLES: We’re still expected to deliver a significant number of staff for the Olympics.

KEITH VAZ: I find that astonishing.

SIMON ISRAEL: Today’s appearance did nothing to boost confidence in a company with 600 million pounds worth of contracts with the Home Office alone. The share price, already 15 percent down since the failures emerged, tumbled a little further today.

JEFFREY BROWN: Olympic organizers scrambled today to reassure athletes and spectators. Games Chairman Sebastian Coe told reporters that a shortage of private guards will not affect the safety and security of the events.